Sociology of Men and Masculinity Research Paper

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I. Introduction

II. The Development of the Sociology of Men and Masculinities

III. The Current State of the Sociology of Men and Masculinities

A. Men and Masculinities as Historically and Socially Constructed

B. Conceptualizations of Masculinities

C. Intersectionalities

D. Methodologies and Epistemologies

E. Political and Policy Issues

IV. The Future of the Sociology of Men and Masculinities

I. Introduction

The impulse to develop the sociology of women, men, and gender has come primarily from feminist sociology and feminist sociologists. Those making gender visible in contemporary sociology have mainly been women, and the field has been very much inspired by addressing research questions about women and gender relations. At the same time, revealing the dynamics of gender also makes masculinity—and indeed masculinities— visible as central concepts of gendered ideology, names men as gendered, and treats the social forms and position of men as socially produced and constructed, in ways that have been rare in mainstream sociology. Accordingly, this research paper examines the development, current state, and future challenges in the sociology of men and masculinities.

II. The Development of the Sociology of Men and Masculinities

In one sense, the sociology of men and masculinities is not new. Men have been studying men for a long time, and calling it “sociology,” “history,” or whatever.

Indeed, there is a profound sense in which much classical or mainstream sociology has through much of its history taken “men” and certain forms of “masculinity” as unspoken norms, fields of study, or research foci. This is clear not only in the works of the most eminent classical sociologists and social theorists, for example, Marx and Engels ([1848] 1964) and Weber ([1905] 1966), in different ways (see Kimmel 1994; Carver 2004), but also in the work of more recent key theorists, such as Foucault (1981). At the heart of classical and most current social theory, there is a characteristic silence about the gendered reflexivity of the author and constitution of that theory. Changing this involves interrogating that very silence on both the social category of men in social theory and men’s practices of theorizing (Hearn 1998).

To understand the development of the sociology of men and masculinities involves locating sociology within its own history. The combination of empirical description and secular explanation that constitute sociology took shape at the high tide of nineteenth-century European imperialism. The colonial frontier was a major source of data for European and North American social scientists writing on gender. A situational, socially constructed, and global dimension was thus present in Western social science from its earliest stage. However, an evolutionary framework was largely discarded in the early twentieth century (Connell 2002).

The first steps toward the more focused, modern analysis of masculinity are found in the pioneering psychologies of Freud ([1905] 1953b) and Adler (1956). These demonstrated that adult character was not predetermined by the body but constructed through emotional attachments to others in a turbulent growth process (Connell 1994). Anthropologists such as Mead (1935) and Malinowski (1955) went on to emphasize cultural differences in such processes, social structures, and norms. By the mid-twentieth century, these ideas had crystallized into the concept of sex role.

In the 1970s, masculinity was understood in sociology mainly as an internalized role, identity, or variable attribute of individuals, reflecting particular (in practice often meaning the United States or Western) cultural norms or values acquired by social learning from socialization agents. Under the influence of women’s liberation, gay liberation, and even men’s liberation, the male sex role was subject to sharp criticism—as ethnocentric, lacking in a power perspective, and positivistic (Eichler 1980; Kimmel 1987; Brittan 1989).

At the same time in the 1970s as the concept of a male sex role was being critiqued, a critical sociology of men was being inspired by feminist or feministic societal analyses of gender power relations. Hanmer (1990) lists 56 feminist publications “providing the ideas, the changed consciousness of women’s lives and their relationship to men—all available by 1975” (p. 39). In what may be broadly called theories of patriarchy, men were analyzed in societal contexts, particularly in terms of differential structural and collective relations to women and other men. Different theories of patriarchy have emphasized men’s social relations to women, in terms of biology, reproduction, politics, culture, family, state, sexuality, economy, and various combinations thereof. For example, O’Brien (1981) analyzed the centrality of men’s relations to reproduction as more fundamental than those to production.

By the late 1970s, however, a number of feminist and profeminist critics (Rowbotham 1979) were suggesting that the concept of “patriarchy” was too monolithic, ahistorical, biologically determined, and dismissive of women’s resistance and agency. In the light of this, greater attention has been given, first, to the historicizing of “patriarchy” (e.g., from private to public patriarchy); second, to the presence of multiple arenas, sites, and structures of patriarchy; and, third, to other structural gender systems, such as androcracy, fratriarchy, and viriarchy. Walby (1986, 1990) has specified the following patriarchal structures: capitalist work, the family, the state, violence, sexuality, and culture (Hearn 1987). Both the historicized and diversified approaches to patriarchy highlight the place of collective institutions, such as the state, law, religion, or business organizations, within different historical societal forms and social arenas of patriarchy. The significance of public patriarchy lies partly in the fact that public domain organization(s) has(ve) become the prime historical unit of men’s domination. Many organizations can indeed be seen as minipatriarchies in that they structure the formation and reproduction of gendered social relations; the development of corporate hierarchies, policies, processes, and practices; and the organizational construction of “persons.” These have consequent implications for the social and historical formation of men in each case (Hearn 1992).

III. The Current State of the Sociology of Men and Masculinities

A. Men and Masculinities as Historically and Socially Constructed

Where men’s outlooks and culturally defined characteristics were formerly generally the unexamined norm for religion, science, citizenship, law, and authority, the specificity of different masculinities is now recognized, and increasingly, their genealogies, structures, and dynamics are investigated. The twin debates and critiques around male sex role and patriarchy, noted above, in many ways laid the foundations or the conceptual and political terrain for a more differentiated, albeit power-laden approach to men and masculinities. Building on both social psychological and social structural accounts, social constructionist perspectives highlighting complexities of men’s social power have emerged (Carrigan, Connell, and Lee 1985; Kaufman 1987). These emphasize both critiques of gender relations, along with critiques of the dominance of heterosexuality, heterosexism, and homophobia (Herek 1986; Frank 1987). Thus, two major sets of power relations have been addressed: the power of men over women (heterosocial power relations), and the power of some men over other men (homosocial power relations). These twin themes inform contemporary inquiries on the construction of masculinities.

The social construction of men and masculinities has been explored with many different scopes of analysis and sets of interrelations, including the social organization of masculinities in their global and regional iterations; institutional reproduction and articulation of masculinities; the organization and practices of masculinities within a context of gender relations, that is, how interactions with women, children, and other men express, challenge, and reproduce gender inequalities; and individual men’s performance, understanding, and expression of their gendered identities. Masculinities do not exist in social and cultural vacuums but are constructed within specific institutional settings, such as families, workplaces, schools, factories, and the media (Kimmel, Hearn, and Connell 2005). There is growing interest in the construction of masculinities within discourses and in relation to media, representations, and culture (Petersen 1998). Gender is as much a structure of relationships within and between institutions as a property of individual identity.

In particular, sociological research on men has been strongly informed by growing acknowledgment of historical context and relativity, with studies of situational masculinities and the institutions in which they are located. These have included dominant (Davidoff and Hall 1990; Tosh and Roper 1991; Hall 1992; Hearn 1992; Kimmel 1997; Tosh 1999) and resistant (Strauss 1982; Kimmel and Mosmiller 1992) masculinities at home, at work, and in political and cultural activities. Key historical work has come from gay history (Weeks 1990; Mort 2000), and histories of colonies of settlement, on the military (Phillips 1987) and on schools (Morrell 2001b).

B. Conceptualizations of Masculinities

Conceptual work has been an important part of sociological research on men. This has emphasized questions of both social structure and agency, and production and reproduction, as the contexts for the formation of particular masculinities (Hearn 1987; Holter 1997). Above all, recent studies have highlighted questions of power—in interpersonal relations, work, home, and social structures. In these, the concept of masculinities, as opposed to the male sex role, has been and remains very important in sociological work, even though commentators have used the term differently (Carrigan et al. 1985; Brod 1987; Brod and Kaufman 1994).

Increasingly, different masculinities are interrogated in the plural, not the singular, as hegemonic, complicit, subordinated, marginalized, and resistant. Within this framework, masculinity can be understood as comprising signs, performances, and practices, both personal and institutional, that often, even characteristically, obscure contradictions. Key features of these theorizations include the centrality of power relations in masculinities; men’s unequal relations to men as well as men’s relations to women; copresence of institutional, interpersonal, and intrapsychic dynamics; and historical transformation and change.

The first substantial discussion of the concept of “hegemonic masculinity” was in the paper “Men’s Bodies,” written by R. W. Connell in 1979 and published in Which Way Is Up? in 1983. The background to this paper was debates on patriarchy, and the Gramscian hegemony in question was hegemony in the patriarchal system of gender relations. The paper considers the social construction of the body in both boys’ and adult men’s practices. In discussing “the physical sense of maleness,” Connell emphasizes the practices and experiences of taking and occupying space and holding the body tense, as well as size, skill, power, force, strength, and physical development—within sport, work, sexuality, and fatherhood. He argues that “the embedding of masculinity in the body is very much a social process, full of tensions and contradiction; . . . even physical masculinity is historical, rather than a biological fact” (p. 30).

The concept of hegemonic masculinity was further developed in the early 1980s, in the light of gay activism and research. This formulation articulated analyses of oppression produced from both feminism and gay liberation. It is not men in general who are oppressed within patriarchal sexual relations, but particular groups of men, such as homosexual men, whose situations are related to the “logic” of women’s subordination to men (Carrigan et al. 1985:586).

In the book Masculinities by Connell (1995), the notion of hegemonic masculinity was defined as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (p. 77). Hegemonic masculinity embodies a “currently accepted answer” or strategy; it is likely to include assumptions and practices of domination, patriarchal privilege, and higher valuation of men’s actions and knowledge. Although rather stable, hegemonic masculinity is contested and subject to struggle and change. There are complex interplays of hegemonic, complicit, subordinated, and marginalized masculinities, for example, when some gay men accept aspects of hegemonic masculinity but are still marginalized or subordinated.

While in identifying forms of domination by men, of both women and other men, the concepts of masculinities and hegemonic masculinity have been particularly successful; this has not been without problems, and these will be addressed in the concluding section.

C. Intersectionalities

Although men and masculinities are now an explicit focus of sociological research and are recognized as explicitly gendered, men and masculinities are not formed by gender alone. Men are not simply or only men. Gendering in the construction of men and masculinities intersects with other social divisions and differences. Men and masculinities are shaped by differences of, for example, age, class, disability, ethnicity, and racialization. Men’s gender status intersects with racial, ethnic, class, occupational, national, global, and other social statuses, divisions, and differences. The intersection of social divisions has been a very important area of theorizing in critical race studies, black studies, postcolonial studies, and kindred fields (hooks 1984; Ouzgane and Coleman 1998; Morrell and Swart 2005). Paradoxically, as studies of men and masculinities deconstruct the gendering of men and masculinities, other social divisions may come more to the fore. Part of the long-term trajectory of gendered studies of men could be the deconstruction of gender (Lorber 1994, 2000).

Very promising research is being carried out on differences and intersectionalities among men by age, class, “race,” sexuality, and the like and the intersections of these axes of identity and social organization. Discussion of the relations of gender and class can demonstrate the ways in which different classes exhibit different forms of masculinities and the ways in which these both challenge and reproduce gender relations among men and between women and men. A key issue is how men relate to other men and how some men dominate other men. Men and masculinities are placed in both cooperative and conflictual relations with each other—in organizational, occupational, and class relations—and in terms defined more explicitly in relation to gender, such as family, kinship, sexuality, and gender politics.

Some intersectional research on masculinities has used ethnography to take analysis inside gender construction and examine how meanings are made and articulated among men themselves. For example, Matt Gutmann (1996) has investigated the construction of masculinity among poor men in Mexico City, and Loic Wacquant (2004) has conducted participant observation among poor black young men training to become Golden Gloves boxers in Chicago.

Intersectional perspectives also link with research on the impacts of globalization or glocalization on local gender patterns of men’s employment, definitions of masculinity, and men’s sexuality (Altman 2001). For example, dominant versions of masculinities are rearticulated globally as part of the economic and cultural globalization project by which dominant states subordinate or engulf weaker states (Connell 1998, 2005). While most empirical research is still produced within the developed countries, global perspectives are increasing significantly, showing the frequent ethnocentrism of Western assumptions about men, both sociologically and societally (Cleaver 2002; Pease and Pringle 2002).

D. Methodologies and Epistemologies

Many research methods have been used in developing sociological studies of men and masculinities, including social surveys; statistical analyses; ethnographies; interviews; and qualitative, discursive, and deconstructive approaches, as well as various mixed methods. An explicitly gendered focus on men and masculinities can mean rethinking particular research methods. Schwalbe and Wolkomir (2002) have set out some key issues to be borne in mind when interviewing men; Pease (2000) has applied memory work in researching men; and Jackson (1990) has developed men’s critical life history work. Sociological methodologies can be retheorized and repracticed, with a more explicit recognition of their gendering (Hearn 1998).

Detailed cultural studies, ethnographic and discursive research have provided close-grained descriptions of multiple, internally complex, even contradictory masculinities in specific locales (Messner 1992; Mac an Ghaill 1994; Segal 1997; Petersen 1998). Margaret Wetherell and Nigel Edley (1999) have identified specific “imaginary positions and psychodiscursive practices” in the negotiating of masculinities, including hegemonic masculinity and their identification with the masculine. These are heroic positions, “ordinary” positions, and rebellious positions. The first “could be read as an attempt to actually instantiate hegemonic masculinity since, here, men align themselves strongly with conventional ideals” (p. 340). The second attempts a distancing from certain conventional or ideal notions of the masculine; instead the “ordinariness of the self; the self as normal, moderate or average” (p. 343) is emphasized. The third position is characterized in terms of their unconventionality, with the imaginary position involving the flouting of social expectations (p. 347). With all these self-positionings, especially the last two, ambiguity and subtlety, even contradiction, in the self-construction of masculinity, hegemonic or not, is present.

Moreover, studying men in a gender-explicit way raises several recurring epistemological considerations. These include the form of and assumptions about epistemology; the impact of who is researching, with what prior knowledge and positionality; the relevance of the specific topic being studied; and the relation between those studying men and the men studied. These are all general issues, well discussed in debates on feminist and critical epistemology. The importance of epistemological pluralism in studying men is clear in feminist and mixed-gender debates on men (Friedman and Sarah 1982; Jardine and Smith 1987; Hearn and Morgan 1990; Schacht and Ewing 1998; Adams and Savran 2002; Gardiner 2002).

The gendering of epistemology, along with the gendered analysis of academic organizations, has tremendous implications for rethinking the position and historical dominance of men in academia and how that structures what counts as knowledge (Connell 1997; Hearn 2001). In addition, there is the question—in what specific social contexts, especially academic contexts, do the above activities take place? (Hearn 2003). There are various different approaches to epistemology, both generally and in studying men—rationalist, empiricist, critical, standpoint, postmodernist, and so on (Harding 1991). Standpoint traditions—the view that knowledge is shaped by social position—inform much of the development of feminist and profeminist critical studies on men. Thus, the positioning of the author in relation to the topic of men, as a personal, epistemological, and indeed geopolitical relation, shapes the object of research and the topic of men and masculinities in a variety of ways (Hearn 1998). Differentiations in the positioning of the researcher in relation to the topic of men are partly a matter of individual political choices and decisions, but increasingly the importance of the more structural, geopolitical positioning is being recognized. Postcolonial theory has shown that it matters whether analysis is being conducted from within the West, the global South, the former Soviet territories, the Middle East, or elsewhere. History, geography, and global politics matter in epistemologies in studying men.

What may appear obvious and open to straightforward empirical data gathering is not so simple. One might argue that different knowledge is available to men than women, or to feminists, profeminists, or antifeminists. Such differences arise from socially defined experiences and standpoints. We find the collective variant of standpoint theory more compelling than the individual viewpoint. A collective understanding of standpoint theory can usefully inform research designs in highlighting gendered power relations in the subjects and objects of research and in the research process itself. It can also assist the production of more explicitly gendered and grounded knowledge about men, masculinities, and gender relations. Emphasizing the researcher’s social position is not to suggest a deterministic account of the impact of the researcher on the research process; rather, the researcher’s social position is relevant but not all-encompassing. Positionality is especially important in researching certain topics and sites, but the relevance and impact of the researcher’s social position is likely to vary with different kinds of research sites, materials, and questions.

E. Political and Policy Issues

The growth of sociological and related research on men and masculinities reflects a growing and diverse public and policy interest, ranging from boys’ difficulties in school to men’s violence. Research is paralleled by the development of admittedly extremely uneven policy debates at local, national, regional, and global levels. The motivations for such policy initiatives can also come from varied political positions, ranging from men’s rights to profeminism to the emphasis on differences between men, whether by social class, age, sexuality, and racialization (Messner 1997).

In the rich countries, including Japan, Germany, and the United States, and in some less wealthy countries, including Mexico and Brazil, the late 1980s and 1990s saw rising media interest and public debate about boys and men. For example, in Australia, the strongest focus has been on problems of boys’ education (Lingard and Douglas 1999). In the United States, more attention has been given to interpersonal relationships and ethnic differences (Kimmel and Messner 2004). In Japan, there has been a challenge to the “salary-man” model of middle-class masculinity (Taga 2005). In the Nordic region, there has been more focus on gender equity policies and men’s responses to women’s changing position. In Latin America, especially Mexico, debates have addressed the broad cultural definition of masculinity in a long-standing discussion of “machismo,” its roots in colonialism, and effects on economic development (Gutmann and Viveros Vigoya 2005).

In most of the developing world, these debates have not emerged, or have emerged only intermittently. In the context of mass poverty, the problems of economic and social development have had priority. However, questions about men and masculinities gained increasing priority in development studies in the 1990s, as feminist concerns about women in development led to discussions of gender and development and the specific economic and political interests of men (White 2000).

These debates have different emphases in different regions. In Latin America, particular concerns arose about the effects of economic restructuring. Men’s sexual behavior and role in reproduction are addressed in the context of population control policies and sexual health issues, including HIV/AIDS prevention (Viveros Vigoya 1997; Valdes and Olavarria 1998). In Africa, regional history has given debates on men and masculinities a distinctive focus on race relations and on violence, both domestic and communal, as well as growing research on HIV/AIDS (Morrell 2001a; Ouzgane and Morrell 2005). In the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia, cultural analysis of masculinity has particularly concerned modernization and Islam, the legacy of colonialism, and the region’s relationship with contemporary Western economic and military power (Ghoussoub and Sinclair-Webb 2000).

Locally and regionally, there are attempts to highlight problems both created by and experienced by men and boys and initiate interventions, such as boys’ work, youth work, antiviolence programs, and men’s health programs. There is growing interest in the interventions against men’s violence at both global (Ferguson et al. 2004) and local (Edwards and Hearn 2005) levels.

By the late 1990s, the question of men and masculinity was also emerging in international forums, such as diplomacy and international relations (Zalewski and Parpart 1998), the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations (Breines, Connell, and Heide 2000), and international business (Hooper 2000). The United Nations and its agencies have also been at the forefront in the field of men’s health and HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention. An interesting convergence of women’s and men’s issues has taken place at the United Nations. Following the world conferences on women that began in 1975, there has been increasing global debate on the implications of gender issues for men. The Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women said,

The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women’s issue. . . . The Platform for Action emphasises that women share common concerns that can be addressed only by working together and in partnership with men towards the common goal of gender equality around the world. (United Nations 2001:17)

Since 1995, these issues are increasingly being taken up in the United Nations and its various agencies and in other transgovernmental organizations’ policy discussions. For example, the United Nation’s Division for the Advancement of Women in 2003 organized a worldwide online discussion forum and expert group meeting in Brasilia on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality as part of its preparation for the 48th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, with the following comments.

Over the last decade, there has been a growing interest in the role of men in promoting gender equality, in particular as the achievement of gender equality is now clearly seen as a societal responsibility that concerns and should fully engage men as well as women (Division for the Advancement of Women, United Nations 2003a:1). A number of very informative documents on the challenges facing men in different parts of the world that were part of this preparation are available online (Division for the Advancement of Women, United Nations 2003b). These should be read along with the subsequent Report to the Secretary General on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality (Division for the Advancement of Women, United Nations 2003c).

Several national governments, most prominently in the Nordic region but also elsewhere, have promoted men’s and boys’ greater involvement in gender equality agendas. Regional initiatives include those in the European Union and the Council of Europe. The multinational study by the collaborative European Union’s “The Social Problem of Men” research project (Critical Research on Men in Europe) is an attempt to generate a comparative framework for understanding masculinities in Europe. The goal is to remain sensitive to cultural differences among the many countries of that continent and to the ways in which nations of the European Union are, to some extent, developing convergent definitions of gender. Here, we see both the similarities across different nations and variations among them as well, because different countries articulate different masculinities (Hearn et al. 2004; Hearn and Pringle 2006; Pringle et al. 2006).

In this European research, four main analytical and policy themes around men have been explored: home and work, social exclusion, violences, and health. In the first of these, recurrent issues across societies include men’s occupational, working, and wage advantages over women; gender segregation at work; and many men’s close identity associations with paid work. There remains a general lack of research on men as managers, policymakers, owners, and other power holders. In many countries, there are twin problems of the unemployment of some or many men in certain social categories, and yet work overload and long working hours for other men. These can especially be a problem for young men and young fathers; and they can affect both working- and middle-class men as, for example, during economic recession. Work organizations are becoming more time-hungry and less secure and predictable. While it is necessary not to overstate the uniformity of this trend, which is relevant to certain groups only and not all countries, time utilization is as a fundamental issue of creating difference in everyday negotiations between men and women.

At the same time that men generally benefit from dominant power relations at home and work, some men are subject to various forms of social exclusion. The social exclusion of certain men often connects with unemployment of certain categories of men (such as less educated, rural, ethnic minority, young, and older), men’s isolation within and separation from families, and associated social and health problems.

Men’s violences to women, children, and men remain at a high level and a major social problem. Men are overrepresented among those using violence, especially heavy violence. This violence is also age related. Violence against women by known men is becoming recognized as a major social problem in most of the countries. The range of abusive behaviors perpetrated includes direct physical violence, isolation and control of movements, and control of money. There has been considerable research on prison and clinical populations of violent men. There is now also research on accounts and understandings of violence to women from men living in the community, men’s engagement with criminal justice and welfare agencies, and the evaluation of men’s programs intervening with such men.

In terms of the health theme, there are repeated patterns of men’s relatively lower life expectancy, poorer health, higher number of accidents and suicide, and higher morbidity compared with women. Some studies see dominant forms of masculinity as hazardous to health. Men tend to suffer and die more and at a younger age than women from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases, accidents, and violence. Socioeconomic factors, qualifications, social status, life style, diet, smoking and drinking, and hereditary factors can be important for morbidity and mortality. Gender differences in health arise from how certain work done by men is in hazardous occupations. These themes raise urgent questions for sociology and policy.

IV. The Future of the Sociology of Men and Masculinities

While it is not possible to predict the future of the sociology of men and masculinities with any precision, it may possible to identify some emerging problems and approaches that are likely to be fruitful. There is, first, the task of developing the field on a global and transnational scale. The sociological record here is very uneven; research on men and masculinities is still mainly a First World enterprise. There is far more research in the United States than in any other country. There are major regions of the world where research even partly relevant to these questions is scarce—including China, the Indian subcontinent, and Central and West Africa. To respond to this lack is not a matter of sending out First World researchers working with existing paradigms. That has happened all too often in the past, reproducing, in the realm of knowledge, the very relations of dominance and subordination that are part of the problem. Forms of cooperative research that use international resources to generate new knowledge of local relevance need to be developed.

At the same time, the possibilities in postcolonial theory are still relatively little explored (Ouzgane and Coleman 1998; Morrell and Swart 2005). They are very relevant in transforming a research field historically centered in the First World. Analyses of political and economic transformations, neoimperialism, militarism, and state and nonstate terrorism are seriously underdeveloped (Higate 2003; Novikova and Kambourov 2003), as is political and economic analysis more generally. Most discussions of men and gender acknowledge the centrality of labor and power, but do not carry them forward into analysis of gendered economy and politics.

Next, there are several issues that seem to be growing in significance. The most obviously important is the relation of masculinities to those emerging dominant powers in the global political economy. Research in the sociology of organizations has already developed methods for studying men and masculinities in corporations and other organizations (Kanter 1977; Cockburn 1983, 1991; Collinson and Hearn 1996, 2005; Ogasawara 1998). This approach could be applied more fully to transnational operations, including the transnational capitalist corporations and military organizations, although it will call for creative international cooperation.

There are other problems of which the significance has been known for some time but that have remained underresearched. A notable example is the individual and interpersonal development of masculinities in the course of growing up. How children are socialized into gender was a major theme of sex role discussions, and when that literature went into a decline, this problem seems to have stagnated. Recent debates on boys’ education have also produced little new developmental theorizing. However, a variety of approaches to development and social learning exist (ethnographic, psychoanalytic, cognitive), along with excellent fieldwork models (Thorne 1993).

This brings us to a number of conceptual and theoretical questions. There has been a widespread application of the concepts of masculinities, and especially hegemonic masculinity. These have been used in various different and sometimes confusing ways; this can be a conceptual and empirical weakness (Clatterbaugh 1998). While Connell (1995) has described hegemonic masculinity as a “configuration of gender practice” (p. 77) rather than a type of masculinity, the use of the term has sometimes been as if it is a type. There is growing critical debate around the very concepts of masculinities and hegemonic masculinity from a variety of methodological positions, including the historical (MacInnes 1998), materialist (Donaldson 1993; McMahon 1993; Hearn 1996, 2004), and poststructuralist (Whitehead 1999, 2002).

Several unresolved problems remain. First, are we talking about cultural representations, everyday practices or institutional structures? Second, how exactly do the various dominant and dominating ways that men are—tough/ aggressive/violent; respectable/corporate; controlling of resources; controlling of images; and so on—connect with each other? Third, the concept of hegemonic masculinity may carry contradictions and, arguably, has failed to demonstrate the autonomy of the gender system, from class and other social systems (Donaldson 1993). Fourth, why is it necessary to hang onto the concept of masculinity, when concepts of, say, men’s practices (Hearn 1996), manhood (Kimmel 1997), or manliness (or unmanliness) (Mangan and Walvin 1987; Liliequist 1999; Ekenstam, Johansson, and Kuosmanen 2001) may be more applicable in some contexts, and the first concept has been subject to such critique.

Indeed, the range of critiques points to more fundamental sociological problematics. There is a strong case for a turn to the critique and deconstruction of the social, societal, and sociological taken-for-grantedness of the category of “men,” and its own hegemony. Such a critique of the hegemony of men may bring together feminist materialist theory and cultural queer theory, along with modernist theories of hegemony and poststructuralist discourse theory (Hearn 2004). There are relatively underdeveloped theoretical perspectives that may give greater insight even into well-researched issues. These could include the combining the insights of poststructuralism with materially grounded analyses of men and masculinities, whether as controllers of power and resources or as excluded and marginalized.

Finally, much remains to be done in developing interdisciplinary scholarship on men. An interdisciplinary research agenda on all these empirical, theoretical, and policy issues would move the study of men forward. Understanding is worthwhile if it can assist the creation of a more gender-just world. Uses of knowledge and relations between research and practice remain key in developing this field.

See also:


  1. Adams, Rachel and David Savran, eds. 2002. The Masculinity Studies Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  2. Adler, Alfred. 1956. The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A Systematic Presentation in Selections from His Writing. New York: Basic Books.
  3. Altman, Dennis. 2001. Global Sex. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  4. Breines, Ingeborg, Robert Connell, and Ingrid Heide, eds. 2000. Male Roles, Masculinities and Violence: A Culture of Peace Perspective. Paris, France: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
  5. Brittan, Arthur. 1989. Masculinity and Power. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
  6. Brod, Harry, ed. 1987. The Making of Masculinities. London, England: Unwin Hyman.
  7. Brod, Harry and Michael Kaufman, eds. 1994. Theorizing Masculinities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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  9. Carver, Terrell. 2004. Men in Political Theory. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
  10. Clatterbaugh, Kenneth. 1998. “What Is Problematic about ‘Masculinities’?” Men and Masculinities 1(1):24–45.
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  12. Cockburn, Cynthia K. 1983. Brothers. London, England: Pluto.
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